Aug. 10, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Returning to the practice field following a 45-hour, weekend reprieve, Florida State donned helmets and shoulder pads – commonly known as shells – for the first time this preseason.
The clacking sound of pads was prevalent during Monday’s 2 ½-hour morning workout, as the Seminoles got their first taste of contact.
“We call it thud, so it’s not tackling,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. “You just don’t leave your feet. We’ve done a pretty good job of that. You don’t want it to become a scrimmage, (but) if you don’t throw them something, they’re going to start tackling each other.”
Naturally, the players seemed to embrace the contact opportunity, after months of out-of-season conditioning in shorts.
“It felt good to get a chance to get back in the pads and bang into each other,” said junior middle linebacker Kendall Smith, who will sport his old high school jersey number (29) this season.
For senior wide receiver Richard Goodman, who sat out last season due to injury, putting on the pads came as a welcome relief.
“I’ve always been a guy that gets after it, no matter what we’re doing,” said Goodman, who relished the opportunity to mix it up with the secondary. “Being able to be myself old self felt great.”
With the temperature and heat index climbing throughout the morning session, the Seminoles took another step toward getting acclimatized.
“It’s just about as hot as it can be, and they’ve held up pretty good,” Bowden said. “I said that the other day, about them looking pretty well drained when they got inside, but that’s better than carting them off. …
“The best thing is to kinda ease into it, let them get used to it. You’d rather not get it all at one time, but they’re getting the heat now though.”
The Seminoles capped the day with an 11-on-11 session, with quarterback Christian Ponder connecting with Bert Reed on a mid-range route, then hooking up on a deep ball to Taiwan Easterling. Cornerback Ochuko Jenije broke up a pass on the sideline intended for Reed, while freshman safety Jajuan Harley also collected a pass breakup.
“I felt really well,” said Manuel. “Each day I’m getting more comfortable and confident in that I can throw to my receivers and stuff like that. Coach (Jimbo) Fisher has been working on my mechanics making sure that I keep getting better. So I feel pretty confident out there.”
Manuel has been the beneficiary of FSU’s revised practice schedule, which splits the offense into two groups, allowing both he and Ponder to get the same number of snaps each day.
“(Last year) I was on the scout team, so I was going against the defensive guys the whole time,” Manuel said. “This year is more meaningful because I feel more involved. I’m actually learning by being thrown into that fire against the real defense. It’s a lot more fun this year, to be honest.”
Dawkins moves to defensive end
Redshirt freshman Everett Dawkins participated in the first three games last season as a defensive tackle. On Monday, he was back at the defensive end position where he starred in high school.
“He can always go back inside if he has to,” said Bowden, noting the move helps bolster the Seminoles’ numbers at the end position. “The whole thing is does he have the quickness to play out there, and that’s what we’ll find out.”
Praise for Trickett’s line
Tailbacks Jermaine Thomas and Tavares Pressley have found ample running room during inside drills, which should come as no surprise, given the return of five starters on coach Rick Trickett’s offensive line.
“I think (Trickett) has done everything we’ve hoped he would do,” Bowden said, who hired the veteran coach three years ago to bolster the Seminoles’ sagging run game. “They’ve still got some more to go. There’s a bunch of sophomores and juniors, so they’re still young; still got some football ahead of them.”